Settled by pioneers long before anyone thought of strapping on skis and sliding down Rendezvous Peak, this region of the Rocky Mountains, 60 miles south of Yellowstone National Park, has always been an easy place to disappear in. Davey Jackson gave the low-lying valley surrounded by jagged peaks (hence "Hole") its name back in 1829, when he left fast-paced Missouri to lead the nomadic life of a fur trapper. Behind him came homesteaders and ranchers enticed by the majestic silhouette of the Grand Tetons and wide-open swaths of land where they could be as anonymous as the migrating elk that pass through each year.
The town of Jackson continues to draw cowboys and adventurers seeking to reinvent themselves; these days it also beckons high-wattage luminaries hoping to blend into the scenery. Harrison Ford lives quietly on his ranch, Vice President Dick Cheney vacations often in his house here, and nobody looks twice when Sting, Sandra Bullock, or Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston whiz down Dick's Ditch on snowboards. Unlike aggressively chic ski resorts such as Aspen, people here are more concerned with how you ski than who you are. The 2,500-acre Jackson Hole Mountain Resort—known for its adrenaline-producing expert terrain—is just 10 miles down the road. You'll rarely encounter lift lines, nor will you find fur coats on anyone but the wildlife: sophisticated Jackson may have luxury resorts and world-class restaurants, but you can wear jeans and cowboy boots at any of them.
Where to Stay
Amangani The sole U.S. outpost of the Amanresorts chain is built into a hillside; its minimalist design extends from the high-ceilinged lounge to the 40 suites, which have redwood platform beds, stone fireplaces, and deep soaking tubs that look out toward the Snake River Mountain Range. The knowledgeable staff can arrange ski rentals, set up lessons, or even provide a guide to take you shopping in town. 1535 N.E. Butte Rd., Jackson; 877/734-7333 or 307/734-7333; www.amangani.com; suites from $700.
Rusty Parrot Lodge & Spa The 31 rooms are outfitted with locally made lodgepole pine furniture and dreamy down duvets (half also have wood-burning fireplaces). The most enticing room: No. 309, with a fireplace that straddles the bath and bedroom so you can unwind fireside in the oversized tub. 175 N. Jackson St., Jackson; 800/458-2004 or 307/733-2000; www.rustyparrot.com; doubles from $264.
Teton Mountain Lodge If you plan to spend most of your vacation on the slopes, why not stay within skiing distance of them?From a room at Teton Mountain Lodge—with amenities like whirlpool tubs, gas fireplaces, and well-stocked kitchens—you can roll out of bed, board a tram, and be at the summit in a few minutes. 3385 W. Village Dr., Teton Village; 800/801-6615 or 307/734-7111; www.tetonlodge.com; doubles from $265.
Snake River Lodge & Spa Eighty-eight rooms and 44 condos (with kitchens, living rooms, fireplaces, and balconies), right at the base of the ski mountain. The complex also features a five-floor, 17,000-square-foot Avanyu Spa. 7710 Granite Loop Rd., Teton Village; 800/445-4655 or 307/732-6000; www.snakeriverlodge.com; doubles from $275, condos from $325, including breakfast.
Wort Hotel Jackson's oldest luxury hotel has been in business since the Wort brothers opened it in 1941. Located just a block from the Town Square, the 60-room property exudes a slightly faded elegance that borders on the romantic. Its SilverDollar Bar & Grill has the best breakfasts in town, and the most rollicking party on the weekends. 50 N. Glenwood St., Jackson; 800/322-2727 or 307/733-2190; www.worthotel.com; doubles from $190, including breakfast.
Bentwood Inn Bill and Nell Fay treat guests in their house like family. Après-ski, everyone gathers around the 30-foot-high river-rock fireplace for wine and snacks. Teton Village Rd., Jackson; 307/739-1411; www.bentwoodinn.com; doubles from $215, including breakfast and evening cocktails.
Alpine House BEST VALUE Owners Hans and Nancy Johnstone are both former Olympians (Nordic combined and biathlon, respectively). Hans is also an expert leader for Jackson-based Exum Mountain Guides. Over a skier's breakfast of whole-wheat cinnamon crêpes with maple-roasted apples, or eggs Benedict with house-smoked trout, he'll help you plan an ascent of a nearby peak. 285 N. Glenwood St., Jackson; 800/753-1421 or 307/739-1570; www.alpinehouse.com; doubles from $110, including breakfast.
Wilderness Adventure Spa at Spring Creek Ranch This new spa's name says it all, from its location on a butte overlooking the Tetons to its outdoor activities. A typical winter day can begin with dog-sledding, followed by a soothing warm mud wrap and a quiet hour of sipping ginger tea in the relaxation room. During the warmer seasons, the spa menu includes an array of active treatments, such as reiki on horseback (in which the animal's energy is aligned with yours), yoga in a wildflower field, and meditation sessions around an open fire pit. doubles from $195; treatments from $80; 1800 Spirit Dance Rd., Jackson; 307/733-8833
Body Sage Located on the lower level of the Rusty Parrot Lodge, the spa is open to the public, not just to hotel guests. Indulge in the Sports Recovery package—a two-hour treatment that includes a massage, a hot arnica wrap (a flower oil used to soothe muscles), and an energizing salt scrub that leaves skin baby-soft ($185). one-hour treatments from $85; 175 N. Jackson St., Jackson; 307/733-4455
Hollee Armstrong Spa at the Teton Club You don't have to own a condo in the Teton Club to take advantage of its spa's hot-stone massages, detoxifying wraps, and facials. Before or after your treatment, spend some quiet time in the "Tranquility Suite" relaxing in the overstuffed leather chaise while listening to the steady trickle of the waterfall. 50-minute treatments from $85; 3340 W. Cody Dr., Teton Village; 307/734-9777
Elizabeth Drapela Drapela has been kneading the knots out of local and visiting athletes for the past five years. For an extra $20 she'll set up her table (with heated blankets) at your hotel or condo. one-hour basic massage $60; 307/732-0074
Where to Eat
Snake River Grill It has been open for 10 years, and it's still considered the best place in town. Reserve a table near the double-sided stone fireplace in the timbered dining room and start with a pizza. Then sample tender local game, fresh ahi tuna (flown in daily from Florida and Hawaii) over wasabi mashed potatoes, or bacon-wrapped salmon. Leave room for the warm molten chocolate cake. 84 E. Broadway, Jackson; 307/733-0557; dinner for two $90.
Old Yellowstone Garage Despite its name, this is a sophisticated Italian restaurant specializing in the owners' native cucina piemontese. That translates to flavorful dishes such as halibut in an olive, caper, and roasted garlic sauce; grilled quails in a honey-balsamic glaze; and house-made black linguine with scallops and pesto. Sunday is pizza night—just $15 for salad and all-you-can-eat slices from the wood-burning oven. 175 Center St., Jackson; 307/734-6161; dinner for two $50.
Rendezvous Bistro People keep returning for the Bistro's raw bar and mussels simmered in spicy red curry-coconut broth. Find a seat at the always-busy bar, or book a more private leather banquette in the back. 380 S. Broadway, Jackson; 307/739-1100; dinner for two $65.
Sweetwater Restaurant Housed in a renovated 1915 log cabin, this is where midday shoppers stop for simple sandwiches, soups, and salads. In the evening, the atmosphere is less frenetic and the food more complex—risotto with artichoke hearts, roasted peppers, and shrimp; rack of lamb in port-wine sauce; Idaho rainbow trout in toasted-almond butter. 80 S. King St., Jackson; 307/733-3553; lunch for two $20, dinner for two $70.
Pato Have a drink at the bar: in addition to the traditional mojito, the bartender mixes South American-themed cocktails like the Timoto (dark rum, Cointreau, mint, and orange juice) and the Terjito (mango-passion fruit juice, orange juice, tequila, and triple sec). Then move to the dining room, where the pan-Latin dishes are equally inventive. Try the fish tacos or shrimp Cubano, sautéed in olive oil, garlic, lime, and red pepper. 680 E. Broadway, Jackson; 307/739-9191; Dinner for two $65.
Masa Sushi Its unexpected location (the second floor of the Best Western) doesn't prevent customers from finding a way in, or from coming back. While chef Masa presides over the sushi bar, his wife, Kay, works the room—occasionally stopping to join a table for a quick cup of sake. 3345 W. McCollister Dr., Teton Village; 307/732-2962; dinner for two $80.
Vertical Mahogany-and-marble tables, dim lighting, a glass-encased fireplace—Vertical (also hidden in the Best Western building) could just as easily be in San Francisco or Los Angeles. The menu could be described as Far East Meets Wild West, with dishes such as miso-marinated bass with soba noodles. 3345 W. McCollister Dr., Teton Village; 307/734-2375; dinner for two $70.
Million Dollar Cowboy Bar You can actually saddle up at the bar—the stools are fitted with stirrups. A little camp, maybe, but the place is always hopping with a good mix of weekenders, ski bums, and honest-to-goodness cowboys bent on finding a two-stepping partner. On Thursday nights, the bar offers free dance lessons. 25 N. Cache Rd., Jackson 307/733-2207
Mangy Moose Go to the Moose for après-ski drinks and snacks. At night, there's live music—everything from bluegrass to techno—from homegrown bands to such bigger-name artists as Little Feat and Burning Spear. 3285 W. McCollister Dr., teton village; 307/733-4913
Snake River Brewery & Restaurant Call it the Brew Pub if you want anyone to know what you're talking about. On weekends tables fill up as early as five o'clock, with backcountry skiers filing in for pitchers of microbrewed Zonker Stout and Snake River Lager, as well as pizzas, pastas, and sandwiches. 265 S. Millward St., Jackson; 307/739-2337
SilverDollar Bar & Grill Two thousand thirty-two genuine silver dollars have been inlaid into the bar. Friday and Saturday nights, a bluegrass band named Steam-powered Airplane entertains the crowd. wort hotel, 50 N. Glenwood St., Jackson; 307/733-2190
Koshu Wine Bar Buy one of the 900 bottles of wine and drink it here for a $5 corkage fee. The bartender can also shake up caipirinhas, apple martinis, and tangy gimlets. 200 W. Broadway, Jackson 307/733-5283
What to Do
GAIN SOME VELOCITY Jackson Hole Mountain Resort (888/333-7766 or 307/733-2292; www.jacksonhole.com) has a 4,139-foot vertical rise and 2,500 acres of terrain, ranging from gentle slopes and wide-open bowls to the narrow chutes and steep cliffs the resort is famous for. The mountain is so spacious that even on days when the parking lot is packed, you'll get right on the lift and have plenty of runs seemingly all to yourself. A one-day lift pass is $61, but many lodging packages and ski lessons include reduced rates.
EXPLORE THE BACKCOUNTRY Jackson Hole's "open gate" policy gives lift ticket-holders access to the vast territory beyond the trail map. But the out-of-bounds acreage is not patrolled or avalanche-controlled. The resort's trained alpine guides (full-day skiing or snowboarding $455 for up to five people) will keep you from getting lost. Rendezvous Ski & Snowboard Tours (877/754-4887; full-day tour for two $205) leads trips through the outback of Grand Teton National Park and over the Teton Pass.
MAKE TRACKS Novice cross-country skiers can start with the easy terrain at Spring Creek Nordic Center (800/443-6139 or 307/733-1004; www.springcreekranch.com; $10 for a day pass). It has eight miles of smooth trails with panoramic views of the Tetons. Experts can access nine miles of hillier paths from the Jackson Hole Nordic Center (Teton Village; 307/739-2629; $8 for a day pass). If you'd rather snowshoe, call upon Hole Hiking Experience (307/690-4453; www.holehike.com; $60 for a half-day, $85 for a full day, including snowshoe rental, snacks, and transportation). Biologist Cathy Shill or one of her naturalist guides will show you how to track moose, and will share knowledge of the region's winter wildlife and ecology.
HEAR THE SLEIGH BELLS RING When you've worn yourself out, have someone else do the work. National Elk Refuge Sleigh Rides (three miles north of Jackson on Hwy. 26/89; 307/733-5386; one-hour ride $12) has daily departures through the 25,000-acre preserve, where you'll be able to view some of the park's 6,500 migrating elk as well as coyotes and bald eagles.
JUST SAY "MUSH" Jackson Hole Iditarod Sled Dog Tours (800/554-7388 or 307/733-7388; www.jhsleddog.com; half-day excursions $135 per person, full-day $225, including lunch) is run by eight-time Iditarod veteran Frank Teasley. Let one of his mushers take you through the wilderness, where you can help command the dogs or just sit back and enjoy the ride.
Hole for the Holidays
If you're going to be in Jackson this Christmas, make your way to Jackson Hole Mountain on Christmas Eve. At dusk, ski instructors bearing torches will stream down the slopes, creating a ribbon of light. A similar, although smaller, children's parade winds its way along the lower runs from Teton Village that same night. On Christmas Day, the Snow King Resort (800/522-5464; www.snowking.com; brunch for two $50) and the Wort Hotel (brunch for two $56) each host holiday brunch buffets. You'll find Santa in the Stage Stop Building, near the antler arches of the town square, December 15 through 24.
Where to Shop
Katherine Everything a stylish girl needs for a trip to the big city: plush sweaters by White & Warren, low-slung jeans by Seven and Earl, sexy DVF dresses, collections from Marc Jacobs and Michael Kors, and chic shoes (but with good treads) by Espace and Sigerson Morrison. 55 E. Pearl St., Jackson; 307/734-6360.
Pure Skin Care & Cosmetics It may be tiny, but it rivals Barneys for its makeup, skin, hair, and body-care products. Stock up on goodies from Kiehl's, Bliss, Molton Brown, Bumble and Bumble, Phyto, and Terax, as well as Pure's own Citrus Body Scrub, a sweet-smelling, moisturizing buffer. 125 N. Cache St., Jackson; 307/734-5055.
Stone's Mercantile If you catch cowboy fever while you're in town, mosey over to Stone's to pick up authentic Western gear. Bypass the kitschy belt buckles in the front and head to the back for the store's vast stock of cowboy boots in leather and ostrich. 50 W. Broadway, Jackson; 307/733-3392.
Teton Village Sports If you don't come armed with your own hardware, TVS is the best choice for renting or buying ski and snowboard equipment. It carries top brands (including Rossignol and Volkl) and has a dizzying selection of skis—from super-fat powder boards to the latest parabolic demos. It also carries warm, mountain-appropriate clothing from Bogner, Cloudveil, and the North Face. At the Crystal Springs Inn, Teton Village; 307/733-2181.
Skinny Skis The friendly staff is made up of avid Nordic skiers, so in addition to helping you choose cross-country or skate skis, they'll happily tell you about the best trails for trying out your new gear. 65 W. Deloney Ave., Jackson; 307/733-6094.
Teton Mountaineering This shop is stuffed to busting with outdoor clothing, skis, backpacks, and climbing gear from labels such as Marmot, Patagonia, Mountain Hardwear, and ArcTeryx. 170 N. Cache St., Jackson; 307/733-3595.
Wilson Backcountry Sports Backcountry skiers can make one stop here before heading to the hills. The small shop has a surprisingly wide range of alpine touring boots and skis, as well as shovels, probes, and avalanche beacons. Wilson can even pair you up with a guide. 1230 Ida Dr., Wilson; 307/733-5228.